Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kyoto - last of Japan

We've been back for just under a week now and hit the ground running - straight back to work.
I thought I better finish up the Japan posts before the whole trip gets so far away that I can't remember what we did! Good thing we've got the photos!

Kyoto was kinder to us on the second day and although it looked like it was going to rain it managed to hold off until we saw some temples and gardens.

Kyoto is absolutely beautiful, we were sad to have to leave. So green and lush and lovely. We saw the Golden Temple (refurbed with the gold leaf in the late 80's) and got our zen on with raked gravel gardens.

At the end of the day we had to take the train back to Osaka. We were flying out the next morning and needed to be close to the airport. It was here that I got a text message from our airline letting us know that our flight out of Malaysia to Sydney was 'retimed' for 7 hours; leaving us with 14 hours to kill in KL. We were upset and furious (it all worked out alright in the end though. We lived through it (and a $15 for two people a night hotel in the dingy outskirts of KL) and are able to tell the story now. I won't go further in to it) and helpless.

We had dinner at our favourite Japanese chain, Pepper Lunch, for the last time to cheer us up (although it turns out there is one in Sydney!) and walked a little around the city.

I was ready to be home but absolutely depressed to be leaving such a beautiful country and such a sweet holiday. We really had a wonderful time and would recommend visiting Japan in a heartbeat. We're all settled back into Sydney life now and it feels like Japan might have been years behind us. As I sit here writing this I'm thinking back to a week ago - it was exactly the night I talked about above, Pepper Lunch in Osaka. Strange to think that we were sitting there so recently and that the same waitresses are probably at this very second serving other tourists in our place.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We <3 Kyoto

What was just predicted as 'potential showers' on the weather this morning turned out to be 'constantly heavy rain' in Kyoto today. I guess she was just having an off day. It's ok, Kyoto - sometimes I feel like being a bit of a cow too.

Slightly deterred from seeing the multitude of gardens and temples we know Kyoto is famous for we opted for more wet weather friendly options.

We started with starbucks. Don't judge- Japan don't really do our idea of breakfast (or breakfast at all really; they seem to be late risers). From there we worked out a rain avoidance route. Mostly this involved hanging around the Nishiki Markets- a wonderful place to see the weird and wonderful things Kyoto cuisine is made up of. Marinated sashimi salmon kebabs were delicious- see photo below! We did a ton of shopping, vintage and presents for peeps back home in between food browsing.

After a brief afternoon siesta (we're getting quite used to these - how will we survive a full day of work next week?!) we headed to Ponto-Cho. By the time we got there the rain was so heavy that our shoes were wet through and squelching. Ponto Cho is a tiny, beautifully traditional alley tucked within the city. We'd been told to be there around 5:30 so we could see the Geisha (or Ginko) go to their nightly job and while we did see a few heading off and beautifully made up, we were all really just trying to avoid the rain rather than take in any sights. I did manage a few photos but they're on the big girl camera and I can't upload them from our hotel.

From here we made a quick Zara stop and then headed to a wine bar before a beautiful din dins. Despite the rain we have absolutely loved Kyoto. We just hope tomorrow is going to be clearer, our feet/hair/serene minds can't take too much more of this rain!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hiroshima (b b b Benny hit his head)

There really isn't too much to report from Hiroshima sadly, we just weren't there for long enough. I think I only pulled out the big girl camera once!

Our hotel was right next to the Peace Park but also near a great little strip of shops and restaraunts.

For dinner we ended up in a place without English menus and a limited picture menu. Not surprisingly, we managed to order a dish of pig stomach. Ben actually really enjoyed it but I could only smell and taste wet dog. Like I was chewing on a soggy, boneless wet dog leg. Deeeelicious! Luckily we also managed to order a safer chicken dish with rice that I loved so we were both happy.

We took a walk around the peace park at night, everything is lit up beautifully and there were lots of people strolling around. The A-Bomb Dome looks amazing at night so if you're ever in Hiroshima make sure you check it out. We've really become fans of the night walk here in Japan- its nice to walk off your dinner and great for sight seeing.

Yesterday, we visited the Peace Park Museum. It's a great museum but definitely hard to swallow. It goes through the reasons for why Japan was chosen as the recipients of this horrific 'gift' in the first place and of course the after affects of the bomb itself. Hiroshima are fantastically dedicated to a peaceful world without the inclusion of atomic weapons.

We had a wonderful lunch at a Spanish tapas bar after another quick walk through the park before we headed off on the Shinkansen to Kyoto.


Monday, October 15, 2012


So today we have the first ever guest blogger! Ben is posting today about our trip to Koya-san to stay in a temple run by Buddhist monks and explore the Oku-no-in cemetery...

Hello all. Yesterday we travelled from Nara to Koya-san, the headquarters of the Shingon school of esoteric Buddhism. We caught a train to Gokurakubashi at the base of the mountain on which Koya-san is located and then boarded a cable car/train to take us to the top.

From cable car looking down the mountain
We checked in to our temple and our traditional Japanese room and quickly went to our meditation class at the meditation hall. Here we were left, with legs crossed, trying to meditate (but failing) for the next 30 mins. I couldn't cross my legs properly and both Megan and my legs fell asleep. Apart from this it was a relaxing experience, but alas we did not (and could not in such short a time, according to the monks) achieve enlightenment. 

After meditation we went back to our room to receive our dinner, delivered by the monks on trays. The vegetarian fare was wonderfully presented, but not to either of our tastes; although we did get rather large beers, which were delicious. 

Following dinner we signed up for a night tour of Oku-no-in, the ancient Buddhist cemetery down the road, with one of the Monks, Kobu (I think). Megan and I both loved the tour and we learnt a lot we would otherwise have been unaware of. After the tour it was back to the hotel for an early bed time in preparation for our early 6am rise for morning ceremony.

Morning ceremony involved a lot of chanting from the monks and some very good use of cymbals. Following this we went straight to the fire ceremony which was magnificent. The ceremony started slowly with lots of chanting and some drumming. After a while the fire was lit and slowly built up to a climax in time with the chanting and drums, before dying back down to nothing. 

Breakfast was served in our room on trays again - another vegetarian meal in which flavour did not seem to be a major priority. Neither of us would last long in temple life. We took another trip to the cemetery to see it in daylight. It was just a beautiful as it was the night before. We got lots of photos and would definitely recommend anyone coming to Japan take the time out to visit this magnificent place.

Buddha of Beauty - Megan threw in a coin for luck (not that she needs it.)
Megan wrote that.

From Koya-san it was on to Hiroshima today for some admiration of the destructive power of the A-bomb. More on that to come later...

Love Ben xox

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Oh deer!

We left Osaka and our share house yesterday morning for Nara. It's only half an hour on the train but feels worlds apart from the city.

Our hotel is lovely, a quiet guest house on a back street. While we waited for check in time we had a wander around a bit of the town, had lunch and headed to the deer at Nara Park. Looking at a map of Nara the park takes up most of the space. It's full of temples and pagodas, spots to sit, little lakes and of course, deer. We bought ourselves a packet of deer cookies to make some friends along the way. Coming out of one large pack having had our cardigans chewed and some wet noses poked into bags we took a seat near a lake under some trees for more reading and knitting.

Nara is lovely and the perfect antidote to cities - green, slower paced and with some lovely little shops and alleys to get lost in. I've even found one of the two wool shops where they have a beautiful display of handspun, hand dyed cotton and wool. I WILL be making a pit stop there before we leave!

Yesterday marked one week since we arrived although it feels like we've been here a lot longer.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A lazy day

Today we had what I'm sure will turn out to be the laziest of all our travel days. We didn't leave the house until about 1230, went to the Osaka Castle and after looking through there sat on a park bench reading and knitting for a while.

We came home, collecting a bottle of red and a packet of chips on the way (supermarkets like 7/11 are all fully licenced here and dirt cheap) and have done nothing since then. Ben's on the couch reading and I'm typing away here. We'll probably head into the city soon for dinner.

Tomorrow, Nara. We're looking forward to heading out of the cities actually and seeing some smaller, lower key towns of Japan.

Also, I've just spent a bit of time editing the posts I've put up since we've been here to include photos from the big camera so go back and take a look if you're interested!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Night walk: Osaka

Despite the flashing bright lights and showy ads,
Osaka is a pretty sweet place if you look a little closer